Newsletter: May 4, 2016

Dear Church Family,

One of the clear teachings of the Bible is that Christians will be hated by the world. Furthermore, unbelievers will evidence their hatred for believers by persecuting them. This will result in our suffering. Alright, happy Wednesday! See you next week…

You know we can’t end there. Obviously, the promise of persecution, and thereby suffering, produced by the world’s hatred of us is kind of a bummer—to put it mildly. So is that the intention of the New Testament’s teaching on the persecution of Christians? Absolutely not. Alright, so what is its purpose?

Well, in my estimation, it is really two-fold. The first goes back to what we focused on last week; namely, clarity. God wanted His people to be fully aware of the cost of their faith during this life. It is no surprise to Bible readers that this is a main theme of the Christian life in light of the Christ we serve. Beyond this, this upfront clarity teaches us that following Jesus in the obedience of faith is worth all of the consequences. The fact that Jesus clearly commands our suffering reveals that He is infinitely worthy of our suffering.

The next dimension is that of encouragement. On the front end, yes, I am saying that the idea of Christians facing persecution is meant to be an encouragement to us as opposed to a discouragement. And yes, I know I am at least a little crazy, but stick with me as I try to explain.

The reality of persecution in this life by unbelievers is meant to encourage us on two fronts: the present and the future. As the Bible explains, Christians are persecuted because of their identification with Christ—who was persecuted and killed by the world. That means when we are persecuted by the world, we should rejoice and be encouraged because the world recognizes we are in Christ. In other words, through its persecution of us because of Christ, the world is affirming the reality that we are living faithfully as Christians. Persecution for the sake of Jesus in this present life means we are doing what we are supposed to—we are living worthy of our calling and not like the world.

It also encourages us by reminding us of the future. This present persecution and injustice we face in this world will one day soon come to an end. How can we know that for sure? Jesus, who suffered more than anyone else ever had, would, or could, was raised to life from the grave and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. As sure as the grave could not hold Him, we have hope that even if we are put to death for our faith—we are safe in the hands of God. Just as Jesus has overcome the world through His life, death, and resurrection, we are now “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

Our great God uses the very thing meant to discourage and destroy us by the evil one to encourage and strengthen us. So, as we endure persecution for being Christians, let us be reminded and remind one another of the hope of eternal glory that is ours in Jesus Christ.

John 15:18-21; 16:33; Acts 5:41; Romans 8:18; 2 Timothy 3:12

Gentry